|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-9 Belshazzar bade defiance to the judgments of God. Most historians consider that Cyrus then besieged Babylon. Security and sensuality are sad proofs of approaching ruin. That mirth is sinful indeed, which profanes sacred things; and what are many of the songs used at modern feasts better than the praises sung by the heathens to their gods! See how God struck terror upon Belshazzar and his lords. God's written word is enough to put the proudest, boldest sinner in a fright. What we see of God, the part of the hand that writes in the book of the creatures, and in the book of the Scriptures, should fill us with awful thoughts concerning that part which we do not see. If this be the finger of God, what is his arm when made bare? And what is He? The king's guilty conscience told him that he had no reason to expect any good news from heaven. God can, in a moment, make the heart of the stoutest sinner to tremble; and there needs no more than to let loose his own thoughts upon him; they will give him trouble enough. No bodily pain can equal the inward agony which sometimes seizes the sinner in the midst of mirth, carnal pleasures, and worldly pomp. Sometimes terrors cause a man to flee to Christ for pardon and peace; but many cry out for fear of wrath, who are not humbled for their sins, and who seek relief by lying vanities. The ignorance and uncertainty concerning the Holy Scriptures, shown by many who call themselves wise, only tend to drive sinners to despair, as the ignorance of these wise men did.
Verse 8. - Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. As we have already said, the Septuagint here repeats the list of wise men. and omits "the Chaldeans." If the word "Chaldean" had been in the text originally, the fact that astrologers were frequently called Chaldeans would render it unlikely that the word should be omitted. Whereas from this very ground it was a word specially apt to be added on the margin, and once on the margin it would easily drop into the text. Even in the case of the Massoretic text, there seems to be a repetition here. It is certainly more obvious in the Septuagint text. The verse according to the Septuagint is, "And there entered in the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the astrologers, and were not able to announce the interpretation of the writing." Theodotion agrees here with the received text; the Peshitta omits "all." The only way in which we can escape the idea of this being a repetition is by holding that the word "all" is emphatic. The omission of the word "all" from the Peshitta is against this. It is to be observed that in the Septuagint there is no reference to "reading the writing;" it is only to announce the interpretation.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then came in all the king's wise men,.... The whole college of them, the persons before described; over whom, in Nebuchadnezzar's time, Daniel was the chief of the governors, Daniel 2:48, these came in readily, in hope of getting both riches and honour:
but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof; for if they could not do the former, it must be impossible to do the latter; of the reason of which, various are the conjectures (p): as that, though these words were written in Chaldee, yet in characters, as the Samaritan or Phoenician, they did not understand; or were written without points, and so they knew not which were the proper ones to put to them; or they were written according to the position of the letters of the alphabet, called "athbash", of which See Gill on Jeremiah 25:26, or the words were placed so as to be read backward, or else downward, and not straightforward; or they were all in one word; or only the initial letters of words; but the true reason was, that it was so ordained by the Lord, that they should not be able to read and interpret them; this being reserved for another man, Daniel, that he might have the honour, and God the glory.
(p) Vid. Jac. de Clerice Dissertat. de Epulo Belshazzar, in Thesaur. Theolog. Philol. vol. 1. p. 885.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. The words were in such a character as to be illegible to the Chaldees, God reserving this honor to Daniel.
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